My son Bode (Bo-Dee) and I took an overnight trip to the Driftless on Friday and Saturday and enjoyed ourselves very much. We set out after I got home from work Friday, picking up some provisions in Viroqua before heading to Avalanche to camp.
On the way we passed a few Amish buggies pulled by horses, and some Amish farms where we were greeted by waves and smiles as we zoomed by in our car. Bode had never seen any Amish buggies or farms before and was curious to know what it was all about. I explained it as best I could and he was fairly fascinated, as a boy who likes to make what he can by his own hand, at the lifestyle and talents of the Amish.
We enjoyed a quiet night camping in Avalanche and woke up at six on Saturday to go fishing. Bode was using a spinner while I walked along with him, fly rod in hand. We got to the next plunge pool upstream, the water still churning brown from days of rain. He made several nice casts to the top of the pool when suddenly his line tightened. He initially thought he had snagged something but then began cranking the reel. His line danced, but in the way Andre the Giant might dance, more deeply rooted than ephemeral.
Bode, having had very few large fish on the end of his line previously, cranked and cranked his reel until the spinner was an inch from his rod tip. The fish revealed itself in the surface film and we both let out a hoot.
This fish was one that many fishermen don’t get the chance to catch in a Driftless stream, and Bode had gotten one a few days past his twelfth birthday, in the first half hour of fishing.
Wow! Way to go Bode!
Bode with a 21″ male Brown Trout, caught in a Vernon County spring creek.
The opener is this Saturday. I plan to stay local for much of the season. I’ll take a few trips further afield, but I’m scheming to get intimately familiar with water that is within thirty minutes of home and work. An hour here and an hour there will make up the bulk of my fishing time this season.
My friend Stephen Rose on local water, Driftless, Wisconsin
Weekend trips this year are going to involve my three young sons and a few good campsites, and there will likely be more variety to my weekend Driftless Area stream time. Whatever it takes to keep it fun for my kids, that’s where I’m trying to aim. I want them to want to join me in trout country. I’m building relationships with them that I hope will grow into their love of the same places I love. If that takes campfires and marshmallows, lunches at the local burger joint, and a few hands of UNO at the campsite in the afternoon, I’m game.
Shep at Parfrey's Glen, 2009
I was recently called “the best parent when it comes to making things fun”. It was a compliment, but it was a statement made to temper criticism that followed. The criticism was that I acquiesce to my children when decisions about “what to do” have to be made. It’s not as if I let my children choose to do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it. I’m not a wet noodle that bends to their every demand. But I’ll admit, I fall into the role of joining them as boys in the activities we share. I want my kids to like me, to want to invite me along when I’m an old man.
Childhood is not only about “Protestant-Work-Ethic” character building via depravity and rigid time management. It is just as important, perhaps more important, for children to understand what they have to fall back on when they need some reprieve from the trying times that come from all directions in a person’s life.
Let's dig a hole in the backyard! (Madison, WI)
When I think back to my boyhood I don’t remember with fondness those things that adults had me do to “prepare me” for the real world. I remember spending time with my mom, dad, and sister, or my neighborhood buddies, doing things out in nature or around the neighborhood, exploring unfamiliar places, revisiting familiar ones. I remember my dad waking up on Saturday morning just in time to watch Looney Tunes with me and my sister, and I thought it was so cool that he took an interest in something I really liked! And I also remember the excitement of being invited to partake in activities that my parents liked too.
My dad, The Man. (Cedarburg, WI, 2011)
My dad had plenty of “advice” for me that I didn’t appreciate and still don’t take any stock in. However, he’s been more than open to trying things I’ve discovered on my own so that he can share experiences with me. That’s the approach I’m trying to take with my sons. Show them things I like. Try things that they like. Meet in the middle. Skip out on responsibilities once in a while for the sake of freedom and fun, to feel like you’ve got some say in your life. Not all the time, but rules can and should be bent once in a while. Like that time in 8th grade my parents took my sister and me out of school for a whole week to go skiing in Montana. There’s one I’ll never forget.
You may or may not have known this, but camping in the trees beats sleeping on the ground any day. Hennessey makes the finest hammocks around. Stephen and I each used a Hennessy on our trip to the Brule River last week, and from setting up camp in a flash at 2am to packing up camp at 5am in a flash, I had the best three hours of sleep I’ve ever experienced. The next night was great too, when I slept from 9pm to 7am.
I highly recommend you give this way of camping a go. You’ll feel so much better in the morning.
Stephen admires a Hennessy Hammock slung in the Brule River Forest